Summer is here, and we all know what that means…..outdoor fun and, unfortunately, mosquitoes. Those pesky insects that spoil evening BBQs and parties. They cover your body in bites and leave you scratching your head (and skin) on what to do to stop them.
When people ask us at the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection what to do about mosquitoes, we tell everyone the same thing:
If you want to stop mosquitoes, prevent them from breeding. To stop the breeding, eliminate standing water. And in most cases, the standing water, and source of mosquitoes, is in our own backyards.
When people imagine standing water, we usually imagine a pond. But in reality, the standing water utilized by mosquito species of concern (those with the potential to carry Zika) is in residential areas – backyards and balconies.
To a mosquito, the typical backyard or balcony is a paradise. Mosquitoes don’t need a lot of water – as little as a bottlecap full – and there are many spots that are often overlooked by people when they search for standing water.
If you think like a mosquito, searching out tiny pockets of standing water, you’ll be amazed the places you’ll find.
Download the checklist to take with you as you explore your outdoor areas for mosquito breeding locations (PDF)
Children’s Toys: The seat of a swing set, the edge of plastic toys, crevices in a sandbox all can hold water.
SOLUTION: If possible, bring toys indoors. Cover large outdoor toys and sand boxes with tarps and drain at least weekly
Containers: A container is anything from a bucket to an abandoned swimming pool. Overturning a container might not be enough as water can collect on the bottom lip.
SOLUTION: Bring containers indoors, if possible. For containers that cannot be moved inside, either add a mosquito dunk to the water (use as directed) or empty and scrub at least weekly. For swimming pools, drain if not in use.
Roof Gutters and Down-Spouts: Often overlooked, but frequent hidden breeding spots.
SOLUTION: Clean out roof gutters regularly and ensure the downspout is not clogged. Be sure to practice proper safety measures! If a down-spout extender lays flat on the ground, it could collect water inside. Tape or rubber band a piece of nylon or screen around the end of the down-spout. The porous material will prevent mosquitoes from flying in, but allow water to get out. If possible, replace corrugated down-spouts with smooth PVC to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the grooves of the pipe.
Trash: Trash in outdoor areas is a nuisance as well as a mosquito paradise.
SOLUTION: Remove all trash from outdoor areas. Soda bottles, cups, plastic bags and more, can hold enough standing water to be mosquito sources.
Birdbaths and Potted Plants: Common sources of mosquitoes.
SOLUTION: Birdbaths need mosquito dunks, an aerator or a running fountain to prevent mosquitoes. If using mosquito dunks, remember to follow the instructions. If none of these options are available, empty and scrub birdbaths every few days. Remove the basin from below potted plants or flush them out and scrub at least weekly.
Recycling and Trash Bins: Even though bins have drain holes, small amounts of water may still collect. Overturning them is not enough as mosquitoes can breed in the lip of the upturned bin.
SOLUTION: Store recycling and trash bins out of the rain. Dump any water at least weekly.
Ornamental ponds: Common sources of mosquitoes.
SOLUTION: Ornamental ponds need an aerator, and/or natural predators, like fish, to prevent mosquitoes.
Tarps, Pool Covers and Covers on Wood Piles: Another often overlooked mosquito source.
SOLUTION: Tighten to minimize folds. If water still collects, shake out the tarps and covers at least twice a week.
Dripping faucets and outdoor leaks: Along with being wasteful and possibly damaging to your foundations, consistent leaks can create pockets of standing water.
SOLUTION: Fix the leak and get rid of puddles from beneath window air conditioners
Ponds, stormwater management facilities, streams and natural waterbodies are typically not the source of mosquito problems for 3 reasons:
Further, the mosquito species of concern for their potential to carry the Zika virus are not known to breed in these areas. They focus their breeding in standing water near residential areas in the places like buckets, gutters, abandoned tires, etc.
Of course, problems with ponds and natural areas may occur, and in those instances, call MC311 for assistance.
The topic of mosquito prevention has taken on new importance as we learn more about the Zika Virus and the serious problems it is causing in Latin America.
It might be cliché, but when it comes to mosquito prevention, it really is “All Hands on Deck”. Everyone has a role to play in reducing places where mosquitoes can breed around homes, apartment buildings, businesses, HOAs and religious institutions.
If you keep a watchful eye, take action on your own property and share your knowledge with friends and neighbors, we can all Fight the Bite this summer.
The County has launched a great new mosquito website, with information about mosquitoes and mosquito-borne viruses, such as Zika. It also contains more info and videos that address the topics mentioned in this article.
By Jessica Jones
Jessica is a frequent target of mosquitoes and has a vested interest in reducing their populations. When not trying to think like a mosquito, she is the Program Manager of Outreach and Education for the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection